Waisman Computing Services

FAQ 1109Procedure for establishing a Web Folder for file exchange

Many people have needs for exchanging documents or files with others on a recurring basis--collaboration--which is often accomplished by e-mailing attachments back and forth. If several people are involved or if the files are large, e-mail can be the wrong tool for this interchange.

Here within the Waisman Network, collaboration is easily accomplished with "Project Drives" or network file shares to which everyone in your workgroup has access. However, many people collaborate on things with people outside of the Waisman Center, or outside of the University. Project Drives are not accessible by your colleagues outside of Waisman.

What is needed is a common folder that would allow files to be shared securely without putting a burden on our e-mail system. All UW employees have access to such a resource on the internet. The web server that supports this remote resource is the "MyWebSpace" service provided by DoIT. Creating a "WebDAV" shortcut allows end-users to easily get files in and out of this web site. However, even though this shortcut will look like a normal folder, it is really only a pointer to the actual shared folder over at DoIT.

This procedure describes the technique for creating the shared folder within MyWebSpace, and the WebDAV shortcut that points to it.
Step 1 - Determine who will have access to the folder
If you need to share files among other UW employees, you can restrict access so that anyone who accesses the files will have to login using their NetID and password. Creating this access list is complicated, and is described in a similar article: FAQ 977

In this article, I will describe the procedure you would follow to open up access to anyone on the internet, including people who do not have a NetID. Note that this is inherently insecure once you start handing out access, since you don't necessarily know who wrote or modified a particular file.

You should never use this type of a folder to exchange executable content such as .EXE or .DLL files.

The security of this system is accomplished only by the fact that people would not know where the folder can be found unless you tell them. Nonetheless, it should be used with caution. If all the people that you are sharing files with are UW employees, you should definitely use the other method.

There is an additional security method (involving "Tickets") that can be employed within MyWebSpace, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.
Step 2 - Determine what name the folder should have
You could use a simple name like "Collaboration", or something specific like "StemCells". Whatever name you choose, the more complicated it is, the more secure it will be. That is, it would be harder for someone to guess. Upper-case and lower-case letters are significant, though; so be sure to be consistent in the remaining steps of this procedure.

Suggestion: use a combination of CapitalizedWords without spaces, or use a simple (short) workgroup name or acronym. Try to keep it as clear as possible, and do not use spaces.

In this example, we will use the name "OurFolder". You will also notice that I am hosting this folder within MyWebSpace under my NetID "dswiggum".
Step 3 - Login to MyWebSpace
Use Internet Explorer to do this, since it is the only browser where the WebDAV folder support will be activated.

You can get to MyWebSpace with this link: https://mywebspace.wisc.edu
Step 4 - Privacy
Go into your private folder by clicking on its name. This is what keeps your shared folder away from prying eyes. While anonymous users cannot see the contents of your private folder, they will be able to see the contents of OurFolder which we will create within.
Step 5 - Create the folder
Click the [New Directory] toolbar button. Specify a Directory Name; e.g. OurFolder.
Step 6 - Share the folder
Click the Share link for the folder you just created. This will show the default Access Control List (ACL).
Step 7 - Public permissions
Make sure to check Read, Write and Delete permissions for the Public before clicking the [Apply] and [OK] buttons.
Step 8
Click the [Back] toolbar button to go back to your private folder.
Step 9
You should now notice that your new folder is shared out to the world.

Go into your new folder by clicking on its name.
Step 10
Click the [Web Folder] toolbar button.
The empty WebDAV folder appears
Your new shared folder should now appear as a WebDAV folder. (Note: If you do not see the [Web Folder] toolbar button above, it is probably because you are not using the Internet Explorer browser--try that instead, and then repeat steps 3, 4, 9 and 10.)
This is the Goal
The very first thing that we want to put in here is a special shortcut that will allow others to open the folder in this manner, instead of logging in to the MyWebSPACE web site as we have been doing.

This requires a more detailed view...
Step 11 - Show your Web Folders
To make your own shortcut to this folder, you need to be able to see where we are so that you can grab that location and make a shortcut to it on your own desktop. Click the [Folders] toolbar button, or select it from the View menu so that you can see our new location on the left side of the window.
Step 12 - Make the shortcut
Now, it is a simple matter to drag-n-drop the folder to your desktop; which will create a special shortcut to the WebDAV folder hosted by the MyWebSpace web site.
Step 13 - Give it a nice name
Right-click the new desktop shortcut and Rename it to a more concise name like "Our Folder".
WebDAV shortcuts need special packaging
The "Our Folder" shortcut is a very unusual kind of Windows object, and therefore cannot simply be copied over to the new WebDAV folder. However, if we place it into an archive container, it will survive the transfer process when the end-user copies it back onto their own desktop.
Step 14 - Make a .zip file
Right-click an area on your desktop, and select New> Compressed (zipped) Folder. During creation, you can rename this container file to "Link.zip". Make sure to use an upper-case "L" and a lower-case "z"; as one of the final steps in delivering this WebDAV folder to the end-user is case sensitive.
Step 15 - Fill the container
Now, put the "Our Folder" shortcut into the container with a drag-n-drop operation.
Step 16 - Share the link
And next, do one more drag-n-drop to put the container into the WebDAV folder itself. You may also wish to put other files in here for your end-users; like a .PPT presentation, for example; or perhaps, a Changes.doc Word document where people can make a log of their changes. (Microsoft Word may allow this file to be locked by means of the WebDAV protocol while it has the file open.)
Step 17 - Notify your colleagues
The very last step is to send an e-mail message to each of the people that you wish to collaborate with. Use a text file template for this e-mail, editing it with specific names for things used in this example. The key element is the URL that must be in the message that points to the "Link.zip" file you just set up for them:

https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/dswiggum/private/OurFolder/Link.zip
E-mail message Template
Re: The "Our Folder" shared WebDAV folder

In order to be able to collaborate on our project, we need to
have a common place to be able to save our files. This may
be a place to put our .JPG images and our movies as we work
on them, but it is also a place to put our final .PPT presentation.
Since these files will get huge, it would not be good to send
them back and forth as e-mail attachments.

Having this common folder allows us to share files securely
without putting a burden on our e-mail system. The security
of this system is accomplished by transferring the files via
secure https protocol, and by a private folder path (one that
cannot be browsed by outsiders). However, since you do not
need to login to this folder, it will only remain our private
resource if you keep its location confidential. Please do not
share it with anyone else.

I have also set up a handy "WebDAV" shortcut [1] that you can
copy to your Windows Desktop. The web server that supports
this remote resource is the "MyWebSpace" service provided by
our campus computing center - known as DoIT. The shortcut
that I have made for you allows you to easily get files in and out
of this web site. However, even though it will look to you like a
normal folder, it is really only a "pointer" to our actual shared
folder over at DoIT. If you double-click this shortcut, you can
open the shared folder. Most Windows programs [2] will not be
able to read or write files directly from this folder, but you can
drag-n-drop files between this folder and your own workspace,
such as your desktop, or your "My Documents" folder.

By following the URL below, Windows should ask you to
confirm that you are opening this Link.zip archive as a
"CompressedFolder". Once you have done this, simply
drag-n-drop the "Our Folder" shortcut to your desktop.

https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/dswiggum/private/OurFolder/Link.zip

Let me know if you have questions or problems.

Regards,
Douglas Swiggum
Waisman Computing Services


Notes:

[1] WebDAV stands for "Web-based Distributed Authoring and
Versioning". It is a set of extensions to the HTTP protocol
which allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files
on remote web servers.

[2] Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc) actually has
WebDAV support built right into the applications. This allows
you to use these programs to read and write documents
directly from/to the remote shared folder.
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